You’ve Got Mail (1998)

I started a blog.  It’s just going to be some of my thoughts and observations, and no one will read it, most likely.  That’s all you need to know.

I studied film in college, and I used to write film essays.  I miss writing essays.  So I’m working on a new one.

Last night I watched When Harry Met Sally (1989), and, having seen You’ve Got Mail (1998) a couple weeks ago, I think there’s something to say about the works of Nora Ephron.  I want to focus on those two films as well as Sleepless in Seattle (1993).

Just some notes: You’ve Got Mail is surprisingly creepy and dated.  I mean, I had a blast watching it, and Dave Chappelle is somehow in it, but Tom Hanks gets away with some iffy behavior.  If you haven’t seen the movie, watch it.  This is my recap:

Hanks plays Joe Fox, a guy who works for “the man.”  Meg Ryan plays Kathleen Kelly, the owner of a small children’s bookstore.  It’s a mom and pop type store, originally run by her mother.  Kathleen loves the store and it’s not hard to see why.  It’s located in the heart of Manhattan, it looks pristine, there’s a line of people waiting to get in right when it opens, and she works with Steve Zahn.

Joe Fox works for Fox Books.  They are the Walmart of book stores.  I never thought I’d see a bookstore be the villain of a film, but here we are (or were).  Fox Books wants to run Kathleen’s store out of town.  They want to buy it and destroy it, or just incorporate it into their own corporation.  Kathleen hates them.  Joe is them.  Boom, conflict established.

At the same time, both Joe and Kathleen have taken to message boards to talk to strangers.  Somewhere along the line they began to talk to each other, often and with a bunch of voice over.  So they like each other, but they just don’t know who each other are.  Early in the film we see them cross paths many, many times.  They go to the same Starbucks, and if that’s not fate, I don’t know what is or might not be, I don’t know.  Nothing makes sense.

So one day Joe goes to Kathleen’s shop on a particularly busy day (though since they don’t seem to specify, every day might be that busy and special in this filmic utopia of Manhattan).  He’s trying to scout out the location, and of course he (and we) fall in love with Kathleen.  She’s earnest, she loves what she does, and she grew up in this bookstore. It’s home for her, at least more than her apartment that she shares with Greg Kinnear who absolutely brings it in what may be his best role.

Soon after, Kathleen learns who Joe is.  There it is, they hate each other and we love it!  This is the “fun & games” portion of the story.  They hate each other in person but it’s a very playful kind of hatred, as in there is a lot of eye rolling and not passive aggression or cyber bullying of one another.

That playfulness might be because both are communicating with each other online and venting about their day to day life.  They’re also both in committed relationships that just sort of happen so we can define what a bad relationship is and, thus, elevate Joe and Kathleen’s inevitable love story.

One day Joe learns who Kathleen is, but instead of telling her, he hides this from her and toys with her about her online crush.  Not only that, but Joe befriends her.  They become best friends as time passes, and all this time Joe knows she’s the woman he’s still talking to online, making her fall in love with him.  She has no idea.  Oh, and by this time, Fox Books has already taken over Kathleen’s store, closing it for good.  That just happens and is never really brought up again.  But they’re friends regardless, for some reason.

Somewhere along the way Kathleen and Greg Kinnear (again, crushing it in a stellar role as a journalist named Greg Kinnear) break up very amicably.  Not long before or after, Joe breaks up with his girlfriend, Parker Posey.  Early in the film Posey is a nice, friendly young woman, but when the story calls for it she becomes a caricature of a bad girlfriend.  So Joe says “ya gotta go.”

In the end of the film, after many “failed” meetups between Kathleen and her online mystery man, she and him again agree to meet up in person.  Joe playfully makes fun of her again, and they go their separate ways.  Kathleen waits for her man to show up, and whoa! It’s Tom Hanks!  She says “I wanted it to be you” and they live happily ever after, or at least until Kate & Leopold  (2001).

It’s all a bit ridiculous, but I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, and that’s no snark.  It made me long for mid-90s New York, coffee and Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, Ross, Joey and Chandler.

This movie was written and directed by Nora Ephron and bears a lot of similarities to When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, both starring Meg Ryan.

A few final notes: Harry Met Sally was written by Ephron and had a 580% return on its budget ($92.8 mil. from $16 mil.).  Sleepless had a 603% return ($126.7 mil. from $21 mil.).  Lastly, You’ve Got Mail had a 178% return, taking in $115.8 million from a staggering $65 million budget, triple the last Ephron/Hanks/Ryan movie.

Also, this is at least the third collaboration between Hanks and Ryan, following Sleepless as well as Joe Versus the Volcano (1990).

I wrote this quickly and while listening to the You’ve Got Mail soundtrack on Spotify.

“Remember, life is just a memory” – Remember by Henry Nilsson (from the soundtrack of You’ve Got Mail).

Despite some amounts of sarcasm, I enjoyed this movie.  I haven’t seen so much onscreen optimism since The Intern (2015).

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